Harold B. Segel

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1930 - 2016
Harold B. Segel, 85, professor emeritus of Slavic Languages and of Comparative Literature at Columbia University, died March 16, 2016, of an apparent stroke. Born in Boston on September 13, 1930, he was the son of Abraham B. and Florence A. Segel of Brookline, MA. He graduated from Boston Latin School in 1947, Boston College in 1951 with a degree in Modern Languages, and Harvard University with a Ph. D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1955. He began his teaching career at the University of Florida in 1955 and in January of 1959 joined the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Columbia University. At Columbia, he held appointments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the School of General Studies. He was director of graduate studies in the Department of Slavic Languages, 1977-80; member of the Council for Research in the Humanities, Columbia University, 1977-79 (chair 1978-79), member of the Columbia University Senate, 1978-82; and director, Institute on East Central Europe, 1978-88. He held visiting professorships at Indiana University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stockholm University, Sweden. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kosciuszko Foundation and the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America, both in New York, NY. The recipient of numerous fellowships, grants and awards, he was twice decorated in 1975 by the Polish government for contributions on behalf of Polish culture, first at the Ministry of Culture in Warsaw and again at the Polish Consulate in New York. Harold published extensively in several fields. A scholar of Polish literature and culture, he authored numerous monographs on Polish drama, Romanticism, Renaissance Culture, and the place of the Jews in Polish culture. In the field of Russian letters, he was best known for his volumes on the literature of the eighteenth century, but he published on twentieth-century Russian drama as well. An authority on Eastern Europe more broadly, he authored both The Columbia Guide to and The Columbia Literary History of the Literatures of Eastern Europe Since 1945, as well as a monograph on East European prison literature from 1945-1990. He was also a prolific comparatist, publishing on Austrian and German culture, on Baroque poetry, on turn-of-the-century cabaret in cities across Europe, on puppets, robots, and automatons in avant-garde drama, and on the physical imperatives of modernism. He is survived by his wife, Jeannette Jung Segel of Tucson and son, Abbott Gerson Segel of New York, NY.
Published on NYTimes.com from Mar. 25 to Mar. 26, 2016
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